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Add New Mexico to the list of schools lobbying the Big 12 on expansion

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The Lobos are a long shot, but there’s not much harm in giving this a try.

Mountain West Basketball Tournament - Semifinals - San Diego State v New Mexico Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

As the Big 12 moves through expansion talks this summer, schools of different sizes and different chances of joining the league have made their interest known. While expansion frontrunners like BYU have put their cards on the table, so have long shots like East Carolina and SMU. You can now add New Mexico to the latter category.

UNM president Robert Frank sent a letter to Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby on July 22, in which he talked up his school as a Big 12 fit and boasted about New Mexico’s athletics, academics, media market and fan base. All the usual stuff, basically. The Albuquerque Journal was the first to report on Frank’s letter.

New Mexico currently plays in the Mountain West. Its campus is in Albuquerque, which is west of the Big 12’s geographic footprint but not drastically out of place. The Lobos went 7-6 in football last year after posting a record of 14-59 from 2009 to 2014. They were 3-33 from 2009 to 2011, one of the sport’s worst stretches in modern times.

Here’s some of what Frank, the UNM president, wrote to Bowlsby:

"Sports reporters, ESPN broadcasters, and all the other outlets are advancing many names for possible Big 12 expansion. None of those universities or colleges can match the athletic and academic prowess of The University of New Mexico," Frank wrote to Bowlsby, before getting on to a bulleted enumeration of all UNM’s goodness.

Some of New Mexico’s arguments, as outlined in the president’s letter:

  • New Mexico is a big researcher. Frank cites the Center for World University rankings, which, according to him, suggests UNM would be second in the Big 12 in "research productivity," only behind Texas.
  • New Mexico has a bunch of well regarded academic programs, including a medical school, a law school and a fine arts program.
  • The Albuquerque-Santa Fe media market is 48th in the country.
  • "UNM’s athletic facilities are modern and constantly evolving," including renovations to a basketball arena and the installation of "the largest scoreboard in the Mountain West."
  • New Mexico would have finished fifth in the Big 12 in the Director’s Cup standings in 2011-12.

Frank ended his letter to Bowlsby by hailing New Mexico as a strong athletic and academic fit for the Big 12.

"It would be my pleasure to talk to you in person about The University of New Mexico and what we can bring to the Big 12 Conference," he wrote.

New Mexico athletics vice president Paul Krebs, speaking to the Journal, didn't say much about the Lobos' chances.

"I think it's safe to say that some of the conversations we've had with the Big 12 were held in confidence and they've given us a sense of their timetable, but beyond that, I'm really not at liberty to comment," Krebs said, according to the newspaper.

The Big 12 probably has better candidates at its disposal. But there’s no real harm in New Mexico shooting its shot and giving this the old college try.